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July 20, 2011 / jwaxo

3D Home Architect (Games that Aren’t Games)

No, this is not a split-screen to avoid drawing an overly-complicated GUI.

So I am a creative person. Always have been, always will be, always into eternity. I’m not saying anything I create is any good, mind you; that’s for you to decide yourself. But hey, if you’re still reading this after thirty-some posts, there’s probably something there. A feather in my cap.

Ignoring the actual quality of my creative outputs, I’ve always loved them and always needed them. From LEGOs to home movies to my own games, etc and you’ve heard it all before. The base conclusion is that I’ve always loved making things. And if a new opportunity presented itself to me (especially one on the computer) I would jump at the chance.

Like all little kids, throughout the years I would collect various activity books. They were perfect for road trips (of which my family took many), sporting events that I wasn’t in (many of which my family took me to), or boring days (which many took my family by storm). Almost all of these activity books had mazes in them.

Highlights, for example. Pretty much an activity book in magazine form. Every single issue had some sort of maze in it. Playing with a neighbor during a boring basketball game? Their Beauty and the Beast coloring book was probably hiding a maze or two. Holidays at school were the best, because we’d start having more and more stupid assignments like “connect the dots to make Santa!” or “help the Easter Bunny find its eggs in this maze!”

“Hahaha, it’s like I’m really learning!”


I wouldn’t say they fascinated me, but they were definitely something I greatly enjoyed. And they were always over so quickly, some solvable just by scanning over them. The tough ones, though, with overlapping and fakeouts and decorative edges, maybe with multiple objectives–those were the best.

Maybe you can see where this is going.

I started getting fascinated with the idea of creating the ultimate maze. It would be super-long, with tons of intersections, and dips and dives, bridges and tunnels, traveling in all three dimensions. When a boring day in class culminated in another kid drawing an epic maze on the board in marker, I realized that mazes didn’t even have to have square edges: they could be loopy and curvy and smooth, rigid then twirling around.

During free time in classes I would start working on mazes, making them as difficult as possible. I covered pages and pages, sometimes losing them in the bowels of my desk, sometimes not. I would imagine setting up a business, where you could buy a maze for $.50, and if you beat it you would get the $.50 back and get the next maze for free! Then, some day, a rich businessperson would hear about my great success as a maze-creator and offer the chance to replicate one of my mazes in real-life.

Realistic dreams.

And then one day I walked into the office to see my parents playing around with a new program on the computer. They were manipulating basic shapes on the screen, plopping spoked circles down sometimes, other times dragging the mouse and creating a very long, very thing rectangle that would make a twannnng sound when it was connected to another long, thin rectangle. Then my dad hit a button and waited a moment and a second window popped up, revealing a building that looked very familiar. They were making our house! In the computer!

I had to know this program for myself.

Within a few weeks my mind was swimming with possibilities. I knew basements, second, and third floors like the back of my hand. I could place people cutouts everywhere. And walls… I was a master of walls.

I came home every night for those weeks, and I played.

But it wasn’t really a game, was it? It was cheap architecture software, probably picked up out of a bargain bin like all cheap architecture software, even if it was made by Brøderbund. But man, I was having more fun than you could imagine. I was making a maze of Homeric proportions.

This experience with 3D Home Architect was hardly singular. I had an embarrassing amount of fun in third grade with some book report software that my mom found, where you fill in the information, Mad Libs-style, and it generated a book report. When I at last traded in Klik ‘n’ Play (clearly a game with some business features) for Multimedia Fusion (clearly business software with lots of customization options) it soon transpired that I was playing around with what was ultimately presentation software. And don’t get me started on when I first got my hands on Microsoft Powerpoint.

As usual, this isn’t a crazy conclusion or ridiculous claim. This is logic. If a kid finds something fun, they will do it, even if it’s educational or not usually a game. Because I gamed the heck out of that architecture software.

Getting other people to play the maze was a different story.



Leave a Comment
  1. Rodrigo Neira / Apr 16 2015 10:19 PM

    oh man! I can see my childhood throughout your posts!! I also played a lot using 3D Home Architect when a kid, and made graphical adventures with powerpoint. Thank you a lot for reviving those good days! Love the way you write and illustrate each story. Keep writing, u have a new fan here!

    • jwaxo / Apr 17 2015 6:49 AM

      Haha, wow! I’m glad you enjoyed that post so much. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t added anything to this blog in a couple of years. Keeping up the “two posts a week” schedule kind of burnt me out, but I hope you enjoy what’s here. Thanks again!

      • Rodrigo Neira / Apr 17 2015 7:03 AM

        Ohh such a pitty, haven’t noticed the dates of publish :(
        Here’s my facebook, add me if u want to stay in touch :)


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